Spilnota Detector Media

Newspeak How Russia blurs reality with the help of newspeak: Kyrgyzstan

During the times of the Soviet Union, the names of some countries differed from the names we are used to today. For example, the current country of Moldova is then “Moldavia”, Belarus is “Belarussia”, and Kyrgyzstan is “Kyrgyzia”. Allegedly, out of habit, the former names of these countries continue to be used in the Russian media space. Kyrgyz people consider it an insult to their national dignity and sovereignty that after more than 30 years of independence, their country is still called “Kyrgyzia”, since its official name is now the Kyrgyz Republic (Kyrgyzstan).

In the first half of 2023, a creative team of web designers from Kyrgyzstan developed a browser extension that crosses out the country's former colonial name with a red line and shows the official one. Considering that Kyrgyzstan has been independent for several decades, the team members decided to raise an issue that concerns many of its citizens and separate the Soviet past from the country's present and future.

Russia considers the Kyrgyz Republic, like the rest of the countries that were once part of the USSR, to be its “zone of influence”, that is, a territory where it can dictate its own conditions. It is worth noting that in Soviet times, the Kyrgyz were not spared the constant repression and leveling of identity. Terms like Kyrgyzstan are already outdated and are used only in Russia, in particular in the media, to emphasize the imaginary belonging of these territories to Russia. This is one way of cultivating nostalgia for the Soviet Union, as the older generation hears familiar phrases.

Newspeak How Russia blurs reality with the help of a newspeak: a legitimate goal

International humanitarian law defines the principles of military action during armed conflicts. The 1977 Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions contains Article 48, which reveals the essence of the basic rules for the conduct of hostilities. It states that “to ensure respect and protection of civilians and civilian objects, Parties of a conflict must always distinguish between civilians and combatants, and between civilian and military objects, and accordingly direct their actions only against military targets”.

Russian propaganda uses the phrase “legitimate target” to refer to objects that, although they may have an indirect connection with support for Ukraine in the war against Russia, are not direct military targets under international law. Thus, the Russians are trying to justify their war crimes in Ukraine. At the same time, the purpose of using this term is to block the feeling of guilt among Russians for the actions of their military.

An example of such a crime is the Russian strike on the night of August 15 at the plant of the Swedish company SKF in Lutsk. The Russian Embassy in Sweden called the plant a “legitimate military target”. SKF responded after the tragedy that its plant in Lutsk produces tapered roller bearings, primarily for the heavy civil automotive industry.

Following British Foreign Secretary James Cleverley's statement that military targets outside Ukraine's borders were part of its self-defense, Russian ex-President Dmytro Medvediev responded that any British official could be considered a “legitimate target”. This is further confirmation that Russia is deliberately blurring the boundaries between civilian and military targets.

We previously wrote about how the Russian government uses the phrase “high-precision weapons” to deny its war crimes.

Newspeak How Russia blurs reality with the help of newspeak: Russian spring

Russian propaganda uses the term “Russian Spring” to refer to the Kremlin-orchestrated events of February-May 2014, which led to the annexation of Crimea and the proclamation of puppet quasi-state entities in eastern Ukraine. Propagandists are positioning this as mass unrest in the south-eastern regions of Ukraine, which supposedly had the goal of declaring a desire to either secede from Ukraine, which has become completely dependent on the West, or join Russia. According to propaganda, the “Kyiv regime”, together with Western curators, planned the Revolution of Dignity, tried to hand Ukraine over to the West, but did not take into account the public opinion - they say that the majority of people did not support the European integration course, but were oriented towards Russia. Moscow's target was Crimea, Kharkiv, Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, Dnipropetrovsk, Mykolaiv, Kherson and Odesa regions. And in February-March 2014, they began to organize pro-Kremlin actions in regional or smaller cities, hung tricolors, and tried to seize local regional state administrations. And finally, there appeared “little green men” who positioned themselves as local self-defense, although in fact they were Russian special forces. Actually, propagandists convince that a series of actions carried out with the participation of Russian special services, mercenaries and Ukrainian citizens dissatisfied with the events of Euromaidan, as well as referendums, are exclusively the expression of the will of the Ukrainian people, an attempt to legitimately fight against the arbitrariness of power.

“The events of the “Russian Spring” bring a smile to my face - when the anti-Maidan protesters, armed from head to toe, showed their desire, the desire to become part of Russia”, the authors recall in pro-Kremlin telegram channels long before the big war. They explain that these events are framed by the widespread joy and admiration of supposedly ordinary people who rebelled against the Ukrainian authorities after Euromaidan.

The term “Russian Spring” is not new; it dates back to the mid-19th century, when a series of national movements that fought against reactionary monarchies swept across Europe—the “Spring of Nations”. In recent history, the events of the early 2010s, when mass protests and sometimes full-fledged revolutions against autocratic regimes took place in Arab countries, received a similar name. It is ironic that Russian political strategists created the term by analogy with these revolutions, although the Russian empire was directly involved in suppressing the “spring of nations”, and the Russian Federation supported the regimes of Arab autocrats, even to the point of intervening in the civil war in Syria on the side of dictator Bashar al-Assad. . So, we see another substitution of concepts characteristic of the ideologists of Russian imperialism. The People's Spring and the Arab Spring were democratic popular movements that led their nations toward progressive change. While the “Russian Spring” was a special operation organized by the Kremlin that spread authoritarianism in the occupied territories, and created real military dictatorships (juntas) in the occupied part of Donbas.

Tactics and tools How Russian propaganda uses clichés with no gist to achieve its goals

Clichés without gist are short, commonly used phrases that are supposed to alleviate cognitive dissonance and break critical thinking. It is used to stop arguments, discussions, to move away from difficult issues, or to turn attention to other things.

American psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton coined this term in his book Brainwashing Technology: The Psychology of Totalitarianism to describe the language used by the Chinese Communist Party as “the beginning and end of any ideological analysis”. The Chinese government used clichés without gist to prevent people from questioning the party's actions and prevent dissent or rebellion.Lifton explained that by using these phrases, interlocutors “disrupt the conversation and prevent people from thinking deeper about important issues”.

This method of propaganda was used in both the Soviet Union (which inspired George Orwell to write 1984) and modern Russia to impose conformity on people, to compress the most complex and serious problems into short, simplified and clear phrases with which to end an unpleasant conversation. During a full-scale invasion, the use of clichés is actively used by Russians who support Putin and the war against Ukraine and by Ukrainians who are influenced by Russian propaganda.


- “We will never know the whole truth”, “everything is not so simple” - clichés used as an answer to any real fact. An example of practical application can be seen during large-scale Russian attacks on Ukrainian cities, when Russian propaganda creates opposing versions of the incident (for example, a missile attack on Chernihiv), causing cognitive dissonance. A person under the influence of propaganda and in order to avoid cognitive dissonance will not try to find a truthful version of reality.

— “Life will put everything in its place” — a response to evidence of crimes committed by Russians in Ukraine. This cliché negates any possibility of discussion, because a person does not perceive facts and arguments, and does not want to think about the problems being discussed.

- “Where have you been for eight years?”, “Kyiv regime”, “Ukrainians are Nazis” - these clichés are used to redirect attention to an inconvenient issue, that is, “turning the tables” on the fictional shortcomings of opponents.

- “This won’t change anything”, “I’m out of politics” - is used to reject a person’s participation in some matter, as if the person is insignificant and nothing depends on his or her actions. With this phrase, Russians answered the question why they did not go out to rallies after the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

— “Politicians want to quarrel us” is the answer of people who are trying to dissociate themselves, to remove collective responsibility for the actions of Russians or for missile strikes, shelling of infrastructure and the death of Ukrainians as a result of their actions.

Fake American general was killed in missile attack in Ukraine

Such information was disseminated on social networks, in particular in the Georgian segment of Facebook. Reports say that US General Anthony Potts was killed in a Russian missile attack on NATO headquarters in Dnipro. It's a lie.

Georgian fact-checkers analyzed this case and explained that the American general actually died in a plane crash while on board a single-engine aircraft (Piper PA-28 Cherokee) on July 25, 2023. The plane crashed in Havre de Grace, Maryland. The cause of the accident is still unknown. The accident is being investigated by the US National Transportation Safety Board. That is, this is simply a spread of unconfirmed information from Russian propagandists.

Russian troops attacked Dnipro on July 28 and hit a high-rise building. As a result of the shelling, 60% of the apartments in the residential complex were damaged in one way or another. That is, Russia did not shell Dnipro on July 25 and then the general could not have died. He was in the USA.

However, in this way the authors seek to show that the Russian army is omnipotent and, they say, is ready to destroy the American military or fighters involved in NATO. Moreover, Russian propaganda demonstrates that NATO and the US military are directly involved in the Russian-Ukrainian war. That is why the occupiers are supposedly destroying their opponents on the territory of Ukraine.

But Russia is once again promoting the thesis about “countless NATO headquarters” in Ukraine and hinting that Western officials have an allegedly unhealthy interest in Ukrainian territories. Allegedly, Ukraine is already governed from the outside, and Ukrainian deputies, military personnel and other actors in the political process are generally incapable of making any decisions without prior approval.

Moreover, the Kremlin seeks to hide its own criminal actions against Ukrainians, hiding behind “military targets” that are supposedly a legitimate target. However, it is not military facilities that suffer from Russian missiles and drones, but Ukrainian peaceful cities and civilian infrastructure. In addition, any attack on another country, even on military targets, is a crime. The Kremlin’s baseless rumors about “shelling of military targets” exist to fuel the narrative of the West’s struggle against Russia.

We recommend that you familiarize yourself with the newspeak concept “decision-making centers”, with the help of which Moscow legitimizes the daily shelling of Ukraine and the killing of civilians. There you will also find a chronology of Russian shelling of residential buildings since the beginning of 2023.

Newspeak War is the seizure of territories

War is the seizure of territories. However, according to Russian propagandists, it is the Russian military who, having crossed the border of a foreign country, having annexed part of the territory, do not seize it, but, on the contrary, liberate it. In particular, this is one of the main tasks of the so-called “special military operation”. In order to explain Russia's invasion into Ukraine, Russian propaganda distorts reality and uses the phrase “liberation of territories”.

“Liberation” - the term by which Russia appears as a liberator that does not destroy and brings death, but on the contrary, liberates its territories from the Ukrainian yoke.

Russian propaganda uses the term “liberation” to hint that the Russian army is only restoring justice: returning to Russia what already belonged to it, and somehow ended up outside its borders in some random way. Like, the same Crimea, Donetsk region, Luhansk region or even Kharkiv and Kherson regions have always been Russian, and Russians live there. However, the resistance that the Ukrainians are and have been providing in the territories temporarily occupied by Russia, just demonstrates the opposite. It is beneficial for Russians to substitute the concept, white to be called black, and occupation to be called  liberation. Thus, Russia's actions allegedly lose their negative connotation and acquire a different, already positive content. At the same time, the occupation of territories and their subsequent annexation is illegal, so propagandists do not use such words so as not to show the true face of the Russian leadership and their military subordinates.

This is the fifth text for the new section “Newspeak”, which Detector Media launched as part of the “Disinformation Chronicles” project. In it, we will tell and explain new lexemes that Russian propaganda uses to distort reality.

Newspeak How Russia blurs reality with fictional words: “russophobia”

After the outbreak of a full-scale war in Ukraine, Western states supporting the Ukrainians stopped or limited trade with the aggressor; well-known brands left the Russian market; a significant number of European countries closed their airspace and imposed retaliatory sanctions on the criminal actions of the Russian army. To explain why the world reacts this way to the “special military operation”, Russia uses the word “russophobia”.

“Russophobia” is the term for all actions aimed at deterring Russian aggression against Ukraine. According to the messages of the Kremlin media, this is a completely groundless phenomenon, which means hatred for everything Russian: from products to culture.

According to the definition of Russian wikipedia, there is a kind of “russophobia” on a cultural and ideological basis, which arose because of the West's idea of its own superiority in cultural and economic terms, and Ukraine fell under the destructive influence of the West. The main idea promoted by the Russian media - ”russophobia”, that is, all measures to stop Russia's military aggression against Ukraine, has no reason.

In fact, the so-called “Russophobia” is nothing more than a response to the actions of the Russian army, leadership and people. The Russians bear collective responsibility for the aggression against Ukraine, which they supported either by their respective statements or silence. World condemnation and sanctions against the aggressor are the consequences of Russia's criminal actions, and not vice versa, as Moscow is trying to convince everyone.

Russia presents “russophobia” as a separate type of Nazism, which originated in Ukraine and is massively spreading around the world. Anyone who criticizes Russia is a russophobe, and, accordingly, a Nazi. At first, the disinformation message about “russophobia” was aimed more at the Ukrainian audience, but after the international community supported Ukraine in the war, it spread to European countries as well. It even went as far as accusing Israel of Nazism.

Russia substitutes the meanings of concepts. The Kremlin media put the meaning of another term into the word “russophobia”, namely xenophobia – a sharp rejection of a foreign culture, language and way of life, which can manifest itself in the political life of the state through discrimination based on national and cultural grounds. The meaning of this word in a much narrower sense, according to Russian propaganda, is hidden behind the term “russophobia”. With so-called russophobia, Russia also justifies the attack on Ukraine.

This is the second text for the new section “Newspeak”, which Detector Media is launching as part of the “Disinformation Chronicles” project. In it, we will tell and explain new lexemes that Russian propaganda uses to distort reality.

We recall that the newspeak is an artificial language from George Orwell's dystopian novel “1984”. In the novel, Newspeak names words that lose their original meaning and have a completely opposite connotation. For example: war - peace. According to the plot of the novel, such a technique was used by the totalitarian party. It was it who gained popularity among representatives of real totalitarian regimes. In particular, Nazi and Russian.